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How do you feel about your birthday?

A column about birthdays and how we feel about them.
Happy birthday dog stock
We all have our birthdays, and we all feel different about that special day.

I've never liked the day of my birth.

First, I never really felt that it should be me taking credit for it. Isn't it interesting, how we all cheer for the birthday person, congratulating them with being born on that day as if they achieved something? But in reality, we are just granted that beginning, and it's what we do from there that actually matters and is worth celebrating, not our birth.

(In Jewish tradition, the headstones only have the date of death. I was told it was the case as only the date of death symbolizes everything that person has done and accomplished throughout their life, and that's the number that describes them, not the date of birth).

Second, I never – even when I was a kid and I was supposed to love birthday parties – liked being the centre of attention. In that sense, in my life, I had a great opportunity to compare birthdays and New Year’s (which always was more central than Christmas in our family) side by side.

And the beauty of the New Year celebration was everybody would share joy, exchange gifts, were grateful for what life had for us in the previous year and excited about the new beginnings. It felt the best. Birthdays, on the other hand, were almost torture.

Many people feel sadder right before and on their birthday. Not only that, but statistically the mortality rate around birthdays is higher.

There is actually a special term for the sad feelings that we experience close to the day of birth; it's called birthday blues. I felt that way before and I used to think these feelings had some cosmic roots, as the birthday marks the day when you get physically separated from your mother, thus ending the safest and the most unconcerned period of life.

It's been a few years now that I haven't experienced the birthday blues, and I'm not sure if my ideas about the causes of it had anything to do with the reality.

Scientists from different countries that research this condition state that the reasons for both sad feelings and higher mortality rates are pretty routine in most cases. People tend to abuse different substances like liquor or drugs closer to their birthdays. We also tend to break up with partners ahead of the day to start the new year of life differently, which potentially increases the rate of depression and suicides/homicides.

It also was noticed that severely ill patients tend to die shortly after their birthdays.

Besides, not too many people sincerely enjoy and can handle the birthday noise around them.

On top of that, the older we get, the heavier the social expectations are. If we don't achieve something perceived as a must-have/do by society by a particular age. This tends to become the focal point of most birthday greetings coming from people who know what's going on in our lives. And if we happen to resemble some kind of virtual traditional life plot, there are still expectations for the day.

We are supposed to receive greetings, smile and be happy, join in parties and enjoy everything happening around us. But how often that's not exactly what we want or even can do?

When I was younger, I sincerely believed that we don't need a special day to celebrate those we love, and I tried to stick to my beliefs in my actions. I would get presents, flowers or cards for friends and family on random days. I would tell them about the great qualities I see in them as we lived side by side, not on a special occasion.

I'd make surprises just for the sake of making them smile.

But then life got busier and proved me wrong, taking over that energy and time I'd put into caring, and leaving me with birthdays as a last resort to still do something special for people around me.

And that made me change how I feel about my own birthday, as it created another occasion to justify putting the busy life aside, getting together with those who matter and sharing some positive moments.

I still like New Year’s and now Christmas more than my personal holiday, but the older I get, the more this occasion turns into a day to a point similar to the other two, where I get a chance to share happy vibes with others. And I got to really love it.

As you could have guessed, it is my birthday today, and I figured I'd share it with you, as the best gift for me would be if you spare a moment to say something warm to those you love, give a hug or an extra phone call to those who matter, or just gift a smile to a stranger. Just for the sake of it, to keep this happy wave going. 

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